He wiped the dust away which had settled on his shoulders. He had stood staring at the gates for a while now, and thought of how they looked like fashionable versions of what surround a prison, after all wasn’t that what an old folk’s home was in a way? A prison for those still imprisoned in their body, left there while they are dying to die. He shrugged off his melancholic and depressed thinking as he walked passed flower formations which were meant to brighten up the place and hide its prison-like atmosphere. He entered through the double wooden doors and was in a reception. He approached the receptionist who was young, blonde haired and wearing a nurse’s uniform. She smiled as she looked up from her desk, and asked how he was, he replied that he was fine, and that he was here to visit room…6…6 something. He couldn’t remember the number. He put his thumb nail into his mouth and bit into it trying to think, but before he was able to express that he had forgotten the number the young lady smiled at him again and said she would show him to the room, after all he had visited enough times hadn’t he? She said this with a shy wink and a familiar smile, but Guillaume thought how odd it was to have a familiar smile when he had never seen her before or her smile. He assumed that it must be familiar because she knew him, but not because he knew her.
She walked him to room 65. At the sight of the number he cursed himself for being so forgetful. ‘I’ll leave you to enter when you like William, okay?’, he nodded and noted how she mispronounced his name like everyone else had since he had been attacked. Maybe it was his new name, or maybe their accent made it sound wrong when it wasn’t. He didn’t know. Maybe she seemed familiar because she was wrong about knowing him, while not knowing she in fact did not know this Guillaume, but thought him to be another? He stood pondering as she left him in front of the door. She slipped around the corner and he could hear the creak of her chair back at the reception. He placed his hand on the door knob not knowing what he would be walking himself into. His grandma was dead, so who was in here? A new one? The idea excited him like the idea of his new mommy did. He left his hand on the doorknob and twisted it so it would open with a simple push, but he did not push it. Something now possessed him. Dread. He didn’t know what was going on anymore, this new family, his old one, the attack, what was happening? What was going on? As he thought about this a noise came from behind him. It was another one of the room’s doors, but someone was exiting instead of entering. With this noise he stopped thinking and entered through the door, turned around before he could properly see into the room and closed it on himself.
He was still holding the doorknob, not wishing to turn around. What would he see? ‘Hello Willy-bob!’, he turned to meet the voice without considering it was for him. He turned around to see an old woman sat in bed, she was slumped, but was rising herself up to see her visitor. She looked harmless, and sweet, like a lump of sugar transformed into an old woman with loose skin. He felt at ease. ‘Yes, it is me Gwilly.’, she frowned, ‘Gwilly-bob! I like that, a new name for you!’ He smiled, not quite understanding what word game this adult was playing. Was this a pun or something else? He didn’t know, and was never good with such things so he just smiled back at her. He then approached her as one does to a familiar friend. She told him to sit down and started reeling off news about every nook and cranny in her life. A cat which visited outside her window, and meowed insistently, the nurse which moved her too violently when the sheets needed changing or she needed to go to the toilet, the old man who passed and pushed his old ugly face against the door glass trying to see inside. Transforming himself into a blur of pale skin and glasses. She went on like this for a while, he did not interrupt her. There was something peaceful about her ramblings. Like talk of the clouds or a new priced item in a supermarket, it was harmless and relaxing, and reminded him of his own nanna before she had died.
He hadn’t noticed because he was too busy listening, but his hands had turned blue as he sat listening. He rubbed his finger on his face to get at an itch, and shocked himself with the cold feel of his own flesh. It was cold enough to numb himself to his own touch, it felt like someone else was touching him with his own fingertips. The old woman seeing this gave him a small blanket which he placed over his lap and put his hands under. It was slowly making his hands less blue and was comforting, even if the itch of the material was mildly annoying. She watched him do this with a cocked head, watching with sympathy and finding him cute in his actions. She leaned forward and asked him to come close. He pulled his chair over to her bed and leaned forward. She raised her hands to imply she wanted his in hers. He obeyed, he was feeling a magnetism which only the elderly hold over those younger than them. She took his hands in hers, feeling the fresh new warmth of the effects of the blanket, but also the flooding pumping rush and warmth of youth. ‘How I envy you.’ she said in a voice so quiet and low he wasn’t sure if she was thinking out loud, or actually speaking. He looked into her eyes feeling a sincerity which moved his eyes to become watery orbs ready to soak the bed sheets of this old dying woman.
She held his hands a little tighter, which was secure and passed on the feeling of sincerity much more powerfully. ‘I have missed you, it felt so long since the last time you had visited. It is a shock how much not seeing you for one week has killed me inside. I feel like a part of my soul has been bled dry, but that’s okay now you are here.’ She smiled at him, a sweet smile that he had never seen before. He was again possessed by a feeling of dread, and blurted out ‘I’m sorry nanna!’. The sincerity and high strung emotions of the atmosphere was making him feel sorry for something he had not even done, making him call an old stranger of a woman nanna. What possessed him but the urge to make this old woman feel better from what she was currently being tormented by? ‘Don’t be sorry my dear, it isn’t your fault. I just really do enjoy your visits. It is what I live for you see. You are my only grandson, and you are the special one even if I had more than one! You see, you are not just my grandson, but you also remind me of your father so much…and…’ She stopped talking to swallow a lump of upset in her throat, she cleared it and begun again, ‘You see, you look like a young version of your father, and my husband. Seeing your face is not just seeing you, but being reminded of my entire life! All the love I have for those three special men in my life makes me love you even more. Do you understand?’. ‘I think so.’, he replied humbly. He did think he understood what she meant. He wasn’t just himself, but a manifestation of his parents and grandparents too, isn’t that after all what she meant and what she loved so much about him. She loved him for him, and what made him. He understood that on an intuitive level. Even if he didn’t know this woman, he could understand what she meant and felt, and the sincerity of what she felt was infectious. It made him feel loved.
She smiled at him with tears in her eyes, ‘I’m so glad you exist’. She stroked at his face and sniffled at her wet nose that she had gained from pushing back the tears long enough to talk. He pulled the blanket from his chest and pulled it up so it was in front of both of them, this was in order for her to wipe her eyes if she liked. She frowned at him, as she thumbed at his face again as if wiping something away. ‘Henry, is that you again?’ He didn’t understand. ‘Why do you do this to me? You leave me, you run away, where do you go?! And then you come back pretending you are a child?!’ He didn’t understand, he stared at her with wide eyes trying to figure out what was now going on. Was this another word game that he didn’t understand. He didn’t like this game, or whatever it was. ‘It’s me, Gwilly-bob?’ he said softly with a confused face, trying to remind her of the word game she had played with him when he had first came into the room. She suddenly thrust herself forward with such ferocious strength that it knocked him backwards. His legs bent behind him trapping him. He could not do nothing but lean forward to try and correct his legs, but as he did she wrapped the blanket around his neck and pushed down on him screaming in a vicious tone and with a depth that sounded like a demon ‘Where is my fucking Henry?! Why do you torture me, running away like this! Then you have the balls to come back as a fucking child! I’ll throttle the life out of you, you cheating, lying, pretending piece of shit!’ She pulled at both ends of the blankets so he was being crushed by it like an overly tight scarf. He couldn’t do anything, he couldn’t reach her. Her arms were too long, while his were too short. He could only grasp at her lower arms and dig his nails into her wrists hoping it would be enough to stop her. As his nails made their way under her flesh he felt like he was delving into a pile of wet tissue which was becoming warm and wet with redness. She carried on screaming into his face about a man he had never met, how he was both a boy and a man, and a husband who pretended to be a child when he was an adult. He began to lose consciousness as a nurse came in to see what all the fuss was about. He couldn’t hear, feel or see much, but he could see the blonde haired nurse wrestle with the old woman’s arms. They came loose from the blanket and he watched himself fall away from her and off the bed. He slipped off the bed and landed as if he had been sleeping on the floor all along, like a submissive old dog. A few more nurses came in and calmed down the old woman who was still screaming. Another nurse picked him up and removed him from the scene. He could make out her screams as he was carried out, she screamed: ‘Stop it! Stop it! Take off that fucking face! Put it back on!’. She was sobbing with rage, her eyes looked like a panicking dog trapped in a corner ready to fight to the death.
There was a gap in his conscious experience between that of being carried out of the room and being placed on a chair. He was sat in a chair looking out from the reception when he began to be aware of being conscious again. Before that he had felt like he was merely a pair of dull eyes and ears, barely seeing, barely hearing. He had a plastic cup of water in his hand. He turned it on its side and poured the water onto the floor, he didn’t know why but the way it fell in slow motion pleased him. It splashed like a TV screen which was struggling to keep its signal, breaking up and not making much sense. A vivid visual display of nonsensical phenomena which his choked brain was still struggling to keep up with. The nurse heard the water splash onto the floor and held him by the arms saying ‘Your mother will be here soon, okay dear?’ He didn’t reply, he just gulped and stared at the water. It was now splashed across the floor and had filled several cracks in the tiles as it moved into the natural recesses made by regular daily wear. He watched a nurse clean it up with blue tissue and began to feel sick. Blue tissue like the skin of a dead old woman.